Category Archives: Notable Students

VANK Members

JuYeon Lee (VANK@ Seoul Global HS Club Leader and 1st President of VANK School Club Leaders Association)


Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Juyeon Lee and I am a seventeen year-old high school senior. I enjoy listening to music and singing. I do want to perform on stage one day even though I’m not very good at singing. I enjoy watching movies, dramas, and documentaries. I used to make my own videos when I was younger. Lately, I enjoy writing in my free time. Every time I get a new thought in my head, I jot them down as little thought notes. I have been keeping in touch with penpals since I was in seventh grade.

How did you get involved in VANK?

Until I was 14, I had never been abroad, never even been on a plane, due to personal restraints. One day, I randomly search “penpal” on the internet. I thought having a penpal was just for people who had been abroad or had relatives who lived abroad. I found a penpal site for people like me who had never been outside of their country so I went ahead and signed up.

At first, I emailed a bunch of different people but I soon realized that we weren’t true friends. After six years, I have three close penpal friends left: Enni from Finland, Cansu from Turkey, and Bella from Belgium. Because of the time difference, I used to secretly video chat them at 3am and get in so much trouble when I got caught. My mom was worried because wouldn’t go to bed. She would threaten me and try to get me to stop by hiding the letters and presents but I rebelled more and became more passionate thanks to my mom. When Bella and I contact each other we send super long weekly emails that are about five pages long. I realized that kind of communication is charming in its own way as well and we have really gotten to know each other.

For some of my penpals, we first started with email and now we communicate through snail mail. Email has a lot of advantages because it is faster than snail mail but I think snail mail is much more valuable because we can send physical gifts and snacks that share our different cultures. One time, Cansu sent Turkish Delight to my school and I got to share it with my friends. I don’t know why but I’m unable to throw away any of the wrapping paper or snack packaging from my penpals so I’ve been collecting it all. It’s also really fun to be able to see my penpals’ different handwriting.

When I initially started exchanging emails with my penpals in sixth grade, I wanted to share information about Korea just as my penpals shared information about their own countries but I didn’t know how. I discovered VANK’s Gwanggaeto Dream Wings Project and wanted to receive the souvenir kit. The souvenir kit was free but I thought I had to become an official VANK member so I secretly sent 20 dollars to VANk to pay for the membership fee without telling my mom (haha).

My first real VANK experience was participating in the 2009 Dokdo Camp. I had been attending an academy and was given an assignment to write a paper about Dokdo. I attached the paper to my application for Dokdo Camp and was selected. The overall experience was very meaningful. I even met a girl there who went to Seoul Global High School and thanks to her, I am currently a student there as well.

What have you gained from your VANK experiences?

As I contacted my penpals, I realized that although I was Korean, I didn’t know much about my own country. Though I was patriotic, I did not know about the existence of numerous historical errors published about Korea in textbooks and academic resources. I learned about international perceptions of Korea and also felt that it was unfortunate that such a large portion of them had to do with North Korea. Even now, I don’t consider myself an expert but I have gained an overall confidence. When I began a VANK club at my school but I was very shy but I was pushed into situations that didn’t allow for me to be shy. I had to act as a representative and be brave so I slowly became more outgoing and active. Additionally, I began studying English because English is necessary for a lot of VANK activities. My English is still not great but it definitely has improved.

284527_101173170039697_869376787_nDescribe your past activities as a VANK member.

In 9th grade, I suddenly had the thought that I would like to start a VANK school club but I didn’t know where to even begin. One day, I heard that a friend of a friend was in the process of starting a cartoon club at school and I was shocked. So I thought, “why can’t I do the same?” I wanted to start a VANK school club because I wanted to share the great emotions and experiences that I felt through VANK activities with the other students at my school. I ran around my school and darted into every single teacher’s room in order to find a club advisor. When I got home, I created handmade recruitment posters. I interviewed all students who signed up to be members. Our club advisor had only heard of VANK, she didn’t actually know anything about the organization. The whole club depended on me and I had to the lead all weekly events. Every Friday night, I thought about what to do the next day. I made tons of powerpoints and prepared programs such as classroom exchange penpalling with classrooms in other countries. The results were great. We penpalled with schools in the U.S. and in Turkey. The 20-30 club members enjoyed that event the most. We also went on field trips to places like Changdeokgung palace and Kyungbok palace.  I worked really hard and I will never forget the moment when I saw the name of our VANK club in our middle school newsletter.

Why are VANK school clubs important?

Most Korean teenagers don’t know much about Korea and they don’t know how important it is to be informed. VANK school clubs help students understand the value of Korea. Joining VANK on an individual level requires paying the membership fee and personal active effort. It can seem like a very scary large organization that is difficult to approach. School clubs allow for students to experience VANK on a close level, especially to those who didn’t previously know about VANK. VANK school clubs show that VANK is actually very approaching and welcoming.

Also, there are many campaigns or activities that can only be accomplished by VANK school clubs. For example, we collaborated with other schools and held Korean culture awareness events in Insadong. These are small-level campaigns that only school clubs can do carry out, before student enter college or the work force.

Why did you decide to establish VANK School Club Leaders Association?

When I started my VANK school club, I checked the main VANK website and counted over 100 school clubs. However, the website seemed very outdated and I wasn’t sure about the accuracy of the statistics. I thought it would be a good idea to gather all the clubs scattered around Korea and collaborate on ideas and projects. Newer clubs could get advice and support from the veteran clubs. I put my thoughts into action by starting an internet café and contacting all the club leaders I knew. When we held the event, I was so proud to see something that had started from nothing. It was great to see so many scattered clubs become united as one and discover opportunities to improve and advance all together.  A lot of school clubs disappear after one year but hopefully through the VANK school club leaders association, we can strengthen the network connection and provide each other with the necessary support.  I hope to eventually create newletters for newbie leaders written by veteran leaders documenting their past struggles and successes.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

In regards to VANK, I want to continue to stay involved in college. In terms of my personal life, I don’t really know because I’m interested in everything. I think it’s both good and bad but I’m unable to really focus on one thing. My dreams and goals have changed many times. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to be a teacher, a scientist, a chef, and a writer. Even now, I have so many dreams that I can’t decide right now. I feel like there’s so much I still haven’t experienced in life. I don’t ever want to be so rash as to say I don’t want to do something without having tried it. Some things I’ve thought of are becoming a documentary producer or musical actress, working for Google, and starting an NGO for the underprivileged. I don’t have a set dream but who says I have to decide now? If I live to about eighty, I still have sixty years to go. I want to try everything. Hopefully I’ll study arts and technology, maybe media or political diplomacy. Most importantly, I really want to be able to travel and personally meet the penpal friends that I’ve been contacting for so long. I want to continue to meet people from all different backgrounds.

Sometimes I wonder, why should we think it’s important to share Korean culture? There are a lot of different cultures in the world. I can’t express the right answer and I still think about it often but I think it’s more than just understanding who we are and where we’re from.  I believe there are positive effects from cultural awareness and exchange.

-VANK Story 2013-


VANK Korean Interns

Yeontaek Woo

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Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I am currently a freshman at Kyonggi University majoring in Environmental Engineering. I am particularly interested in automotive engineering and water supply and treatment.

How did you first get involved with VANK? How did you start interning at VANK?

I have now been involved in VANK for around four years. In high school, my homeroom teacher recommended that I start a VANK club at our school. I was interested because I thought it would look great on my resume. However, I slowly became very active and really involved in the organization. As an active member, I was given a chance to speak about my personal dreams at a VANK event. I said that my dream was to be a VANK intern (laughs). The staff picked up the hint and suggested that I intern over the summer.

Describe your previous involvement and experiences as a VANK member.

I began as the Club Leader of the VANK at my high school. I received recognition as a club leader and completed my training in nearly all of VANK’s education programs. I interned at the office last summer and am interning this summer as well. During the first summer I interned, Da-Hae (the other intern) and I wrote a VANK guidebook for all student club leaders. The guidebook is meant for student club leaders to use as a reference in starting VANK chapters, hosting events, obtaining resources, and all other useful information.
In high school, we met about eight times a year in order to host events like club booths, student surveys, awareness events, and video clip screenings. I spent about 30 hours a week contacting my pen pals through Facebook, Kakao, and email. I even met up with friends who visited Korea and I still contact some of them to this day.

What are your current duties as an intern?

I’ve been rewriting and updating school manual as needed. Additionally, VANK currently hosts eleven different schools for fields such as culture, digital diplomacy, history, etc. I’ve been analyzing the trends and patterns of the students involved and their reflection pieces. My other duties involve helping out at events and assisting in judging member assignment pieces.

What have you gained from your VANK experiences?

I initially started being involved in VANK purely to boost my resume. But VANK helped me find my dreams and I continued to be active in order to find my path, not just get into college.
VANK is more known for its activities with Dokdo and the East Sea, and it may seem as though there isn’t a large connection between environmental studies and VANK. However, global issues are a large component of VANK’s World Changer program. When I participated in the VANK and KOICA Global Village Leader Program, the core topic was United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and one of the assignments was about water deficiency. We learned about transforming disinterest to interest, interest to action, and finally, action to fulfillment. It was around the time that I needed to decide my major for college and I decided to look further into environmental engineering. I became hooked .

What are some of the most rewarding/proudest moments of your time with VANK?

There are several moments that come to mind. When I first heard Mr. Park speak about the importance of thinking beyond qualifications on your resume or your personal life in order to pursue a greater purpose for yourself and your country, I was really moved. I felt a strong sense of responsibility, especially in regards to contributing to correcting factual errors about Korea. It changes my whole perspective on life and sparked a passion in me.
The second moment was when I was finally given the chance to intern at VANK. It was amazing to be able to work with the same people who helped me find my dreams. There are also so many passionate children involved in VANK. They will sit at lectures and literally write down every single word. I feel like I am a role model for these children and I still get requests to do interviews or speak at events.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

This summer break, I’m currently involved in two different things: interning at VANK and participating in a project for UNEP Korea (United Nations Environment Programme). I want to complete both duties successfully.
In the long run, I would like to get involved in professional volunteering with KOICA in Africa. I’m very interested in environment and development through appropriate technology. I’ve also considered grad school or eventually working for the Public Health and Environment Research Institute of Korea. But, who knows, I’m still young (laughs).
I want to stay involved in VANK for as all as VANK is still in existence. I think I show a new aspect of VANK that isn’t usually seen. I want to prove to people that you can achieve your goals while improving Korea and the global community.

DaeMyeong (Michael) Choi 


Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I am currently a high school senior at Yettrang Academy. I was also an assemblyman in the 5th Youth National Assembly of the Republic of Korea. This is currently my fourth time interning at VANK.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I was interested in history and began thinking about how I could become more active in pursuing my dream. My friends and I became VANK members because we agreed and felt connected with the organization’s mission and beliefs. I felt that it was a great community where young students could express their passions and feel empowered about making a difference. My experiences with VANK were so meaningful that I began interning for short periods of time. I started interning full-time in December because I wanted to really devote my time to VANK in an opportunity where I felt I could really learn and grow before college.

What are your duties as an intern?

My main project consists of contacting Korean Studies scholars and academics from around the world. I ask them for recommendations on research topics and ask for their perspectives on the research I’ve done on some relatively unknown topics. With the feedback from these scholars, I can get a clear understanding of how to approach certain topics as I continue with my research. The purpose of the project is partly for my own personal research but it is also in search of potential topics that may be worthy of sharing with the international community. All the scholars have agreed that history tends to have a western-centric bias since it has continuously been recorded by the victors. However, scholars differ in their methodology. Some believe that history should be interpreted at face value as it’s been recorded but others believe that it’s crucial to seek out the truth and its impact on the present. I personally believe that it’s very important to understand the truth behind historical events in order to understand its impact on people and any other resulting issues that must be addressed.

Is your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

This is my fourth time as an intern at VANK but it’s my first time interning full time. The organization has entrusted me with multiple responsibilities and freedoms. I’ve been given opportunities to make presentations and am encouraged to share my ideas. Overall, it’s been a great opportunity with very little pressure. What have you gained from your experience as an intern? I’ve been able to reflect about many issues that I was personally conflicted about. I wanted to study history but I always wondered what I could do personally do as a historian. I wondered why we were always required to follow the history of the victors. It’s been a time for me to grow and seek out my own answers. The best part is meeting the numerous VANK members and sharing our dreams for the future.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to do well on my high school exam (laughs) and successfully complete all my projects here at VANK. In the long run, I want to learn multiple languages like French, Chinese, and Latin.


Ji Won Shin

jiwon picturePlease give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Jiwon and I am 18 years old. I live in Gwangju, Gyeonggido.

What inspired you to get involved in VANK?

When I was in elementary school, I used to watch a lot of television trials and I thought about becoming a judge because I thought it was cool. However, I became interested in the issue of the Japanese government changing the labels on maps from Dokdo to Takeshima. I was interested in the process of how it was becoming a territorial dispute so I looked into the controversy and found out about VANK.

I knew about VANK for a while but I thought I couldn’t join until I paid the membership fee so I enrolled when I became a high school student.  I went through the education program as soon as I got the chance. I also participated in the joint event with KOICA and after I completed the World Changer education program, I started a VANK school club at my school in 11th grade.

How has your involvement in VANK changed you? 

I’ve definitely gained a larger perspective. Through VANK, particularly the World Changer program, I started thinking about and gaining interest in global issues like environmental issues and many other issues that people generally aren’t  aware of. Through the involvement in my school club, I was also given lots of opportunities to speak in front of large crowds. I used to be very nervous when talking in front of people but I am not able to express myself. My public speaking skills grew and I also learned how to interact well with others and big groups.

Most importantly, I learned the value of finding your dreams. Although others believed that I was involved in VANK as a resume-builder, I truly believed in the cause and was passionate about my activities. It became a bit stressful and competitive because career counselors would use me and new articles of me as examples of how to build your resume but I was purely interested in the movement.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I interned at VANK during January and February of 2012. I had always mentioned wanting to intern to the staff and one day, the timing worked out. President Park asked me to drop by the office and start right away.        

What were your duties as an intern?

I had always been interested in the issue of comfort women. I often participate in the Wednesday Strikes that take place in front of the Japanese Embassy. I used to volunteer at the House of Sharing, a home where comfort women live or meet together as a community. There, I would help clean, cook, and help around with the house while getting a chance to talk to the grandmothers and hear their stories. House of Sharing is very strict about who gets to meet the grandmothers. The grandmothers often struggle with having to relive difficult memories every time they share their stories. Additionally, they feel as they’ve sometimes become spectacles for curious visitors. They feel a certain pressure about having to live up to something or prove something when all they want is a closure and justice.

As an intern, I managed a social media project in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in order to raise awareness about the comfort women human rights issues. I also organized a flash mob in Gwanghwamun Square. Honestly, there are many Koreans who aren’t informed about the issue but that’s slowly changing.  Even international media and people in positions of power have picked up interest on the issue and the pressure for a formal apology has increased.

Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

The VANK office always had a great atmosphere and I just enjoyed the fact of just being there. I was slightly scared because for the first time, I had to have my own opinion and personal philosophy. I felt like I was growing up beyond my role as a student. Additionally people always say that nothing is ever as it seems but I didn’t feel that way about VANK at all. There were no pretentions, no fakeness. They were always great.

Describe your most meaningful experiences.

Through VANK, I’ve seen people change for the better. It’s fascinating but I’ve seen people without dreams become touched and motivated. Just the other day, my friend and I were completely depressed but the way that I talked about my own life was very different. She told me that she wished that she had something like VANK in her own life where she could gain encouragement and sense of purpose in difficult times.

One year, we had an international exchange program at our high school where several Japanese students attended our school. I learned that most Japanese people don’t care or don’t know about historical conflicts. It’s very much played up by the media and select politicians in Japan so it’s quite unfair to the rest of the Japanese population, especially those who are interested in Korea. It’s also unfortunate because the extremist statements and actions heavily impact our perspective here in Korea. In the end, I realized that we’re all just high school students with similar interests.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to ace my exams and go to a school where I’ll be happy. I want to earn enough money where I can donate and give endlessly without worries. I want to give enough to make a difference and the change the world for the better. I want to always think beyond myself.


Hyunsoo (Marco) Kim


Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I’m a sophomore majoring in International Studies at Kyung Hee University. I recently completed my military service in the Korean army this January. My hobbies include meeting new people and constantly learning new information.

How did you start interning at VANK?

After I returned from the army, I wanted to become more active in my passion for international history. A friend of mine mentioned VANK in one of our conversations so I looked into the organization. After some research, I came up with ideas on how I felt I could contribute and contacted VANK. However, when I asked them to meet with me, they turned me down (laughs). Afterwards, I went through the Cyber Diplomat process and began reflecting on how much I really knew about Korean history. I also thought about what I could offer VANK through the perspective as a student. I re-drafted a report on each of VANK’s websites and how I felt they could be improved. VANK contacted me and ask me to go ahead and take charge of fulfilling my suggested improvements.

What are your duties as an intern?

I’ve mainly been working on VANK’s YouTube channel. I felt that the titles of the videos clips were too vague and wasn’t drawing all of the potential viewership. I noticed that out of all of VANK’s educational clips, the ones with the most specific titles had the most view counts. I’ve been changing the names of some of the clips in order to see if that will increase viewership and improve visibility in related search functions. I also just recently started a PR project meant to attract interest for our educational Dokdo program.

Is your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

My only regret is that I’m unable to completely devote all my time and energy to my internship because of my responsibilities with school and schoolwork. I enjoy how much VANK trusts me to makes a positive contribution and that trust motivates to work even harder.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I want to continue to provide my perspective as a student to VANK. And I want to keep doing my best and absorb as much knowledge and information as I can. For long term, I want to become a professional in this field and work as a bridge between different countries in the global community.


Jinseon (Selena) Kim


Please give me a brief introduction of yourself.
I’m Jinseon Kim (Selena), a rising senior at Cornell University. I have been studying in the states for seven years now. I’m a biology major with a nutrition minor. I’m planning to work for a bit at a biotech company (hopefully) before I eventually go to grad school, work on my Ph.D and continue research in the bio/molecular bio sectors of cancer research.

How did you start interning at VANK?
I found out about VANK in my sophomore year of high school. My mom saw information about VANK’s Gwangaeto project on the news encouraged me to apply for it. As a high school student in the states, I was aware of historical issues involving Dokdo and East Sea, and I thought it was a good opportunity to apply. After participating in the Gwangaeto project, I wanted to be more involved and became an official member of VANK. After the cyber training, I was more aware of lots of historical conflicts in Korea, and I wanted to contribute more. In the spring of my sophomore year, I contacted Mr. Gi Tae Park and asked him if I could intern for the summer. After a short interview in the beginning of summer, I became an intern. It lasted for about two months but I continued to help throughout the school year as well as some summers afterwards when my brother also became an intern.

What were your duties as an intern?
As an intern, I drafted a report on the various maps on internet that didn’t mark Dokdo or marked East Sea as Sea of Japan. I gathered more than 100 maps and organized them. I also translated various materials and documents from Korean to English.

What the internship just as you expected? Why or why not? 
What have you gained from your experience as an intern?
The experience was far better than expected. The staff was very nice and I learned so much more about the historical evidence that weaken many claims of the Japanese government. I also learned to think critically about how to solve this problem. It was my very first internship so I also got to experience working in a structured environment other than school. Finally, my translating skills improved a lot.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.
As a Korean who is most likely going to stay in the States even after college, I really wish people knew more about Korea and its culture. Although the situation has improved quite a bit, people still know East Sea as Sea of Japan and regard the issue over Dokdo as a minor, pointless fight. My goal is to somehow contribute to raising awareness about Korea in other countries and fix the trends distorted historical information that occur around the world.

-VANK Story 2013-

VANK International Interns

Chen zhijun (Rebecca) – China

레베카 사진1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

I am Rebecca, a student in the University of International Business and Economy in China. My major is e-commerce. I am very interested in Korean history and culture. I am an intern in VANK during this winter holiday.

2. How did you start interning at VANK?

I’ve always wanted to know about Korea, but I thought traveling is a limited way. I tried to find another way as volunteering or interning in Korea. While I told Aiesecers about my thoughts, they introduced the VANK. I searched on the website and found it very interesting. That’s how I applied for the internship.

3. What are your duties as an intern?

The first was the cultural exchange between Korea and China. I would first learn about Korean culture and history and then, I’d like to introduce Chinese culture to Korean friends. I would also analyze the similarities and differences between Korea and China. Additionally, I would find information about what do Chinese think of Korea especially on the website. By the way, My everyday work is not only to watch videos from ‘Friendly Korean Community’ and submit video for each video, but also teach some Chinese characters.

4. Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

I think it is the internship experience I expected. I applied for VANK because VANK is an organization which includes history, culture and international relationship. On the VANK website,   I read many VANK stories and knew more about the work in VANK.  Now I am working here for two weeks and quickly used to working here. I think I can create some experience by myself to let the next intern be more easier.

5. What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

It is the first time I have been an intern in another country’s organization. There are too many things I need to learn. The first I need to learn how to express my thoughts about the whole team accurately. The second is to learn to think various perspectives of others. Sometimes I will meet some Korean people who don’t know the relationship about Taiwan and China. Although it is easy for me to know Taiwan belongs to China, I need to understand them and tell them the truth patiently.

6. Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

In the short term I want to know more about Korean culture. I wonder why Korea and China has these historial problems and figure out what I can do for relationship of Korea and China. I also want to analyze similarities and differences between Korea and China. In the long term, I want to introduce Korean culture to my Chinese friends and change the wrong opinions about Korea of my friends.


Agnieszka Michalczyk – Poland

아가 사진

1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

Hello, my name is Agnieszka. I’m from Poland and I’m studying Korean Language and Culture in Warsaw University.  I am very eager to get an experience here in VANK.

2. How did you start interning at VANK?

My friend from AIESEC introduced me a project with VANK. Since I really wanted to visit Korea, know about Korea more and in the same time not just travel but also do something I decided to apply. I read some articles and VANK’s webpage and felt it would be really interesting to work with VANK. I applied and got accepted so here I am J

3. What were your duties as an intern?

I am still doing my internship and my work is in progress. I was trying to find some similarities and differences between Poland and Korea. I have to say it’s a hard thing to do, especially to find similarities. I think European countries are really different from any part of Asia. But! It’s very interesting to compare Polish and Korean culture when they are so different and when I find something similar it’s such a surprise!

My second part is finding historical bond of sympathy between Korea and Poland. Poland has some similarities in history, especially about relations with Russia. I think it’s very similar to Korea and Japan. During long period of time we had very difficult relations with Russia. We lost our independence and got divided between three countries. Then during World War II we also had some issues with Russia. Now political relations are very difficult.

Third part of my work is checking Polish websites about Korea. Nowadays people are more and more interested in Korea and young people especially, are creating websites about Korean music, food, culture.

Also I have to write articles about me working in VANK once a week and everyday watch 3 videos and write about them. This part gives me a chance to learn about Korea.

4. Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

So far it’s more than I expected! I thought work would be tough and dull but it’s very interesting. People here are nice and helpful. I have a chance to experience Korea, learn and know more about not only culture but also history. I can’t say much now since I am on the internship only two weeks so far but I hope the work will be as interesting as it is now.

5. What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

I got to experience not only working in office but also attending lectures, speaking in front of camera. I learned about Korean history, culture, maybe I will get some idea for my future thesis. I’m still waiting for experience to gain here!

6. Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

My short-term goal would be finishing my studies in two years and getting a job, I hope in Korea. I hope to pass my exams which are in 5 weeks well and gain some confidence in speaking Korean.  Later, after getting my degree I plan to take a diplomacy course and maybe get a job in that area.

My long-term goals are very simple because I just dream about having family and being able to buy nice flat. So I will work hard to be able to start a family!


Gloria Kang – USA

Gloria (10)1. Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Gloria Kang and I am currently a Masters student at the Korean Language Flagship Program. Last year, I completed the abroad portion of my program at Korea University.  While I was in Korea for the year, I also worked as an intern for VANK.

2. How did you start interning at VANK?

My program consists of one year in Korea at Korea University and an internship at an organization that in the field of my interest. I’d always been interested in cultural exchange so before I got to Korea, my Korean language exchange partner recommended VANK to me. He said he didn’t really know much about the organization but he thought it’d be a good match for me. When I got to Korea, I heard that another student had also interned at VANK before me. She had had a great experience and I was interested in how they “shared Korea with the world.” I felt that VANK would be a great way to really get an understanding of Korea and Korean culture. I went in for an interview and my internship started the following week.

3. What were your duties as an intern?

My main project was the VANK story website. I went through all of VANK’s PR materials, websites, book, published works, etc. and in order to provide detailed English descriptions of the various items. I also interview VANK staff, past interns, students, and collaborative organizations in order to provide a comprehensive picture of the various people in VANK, what they do, and the motivations that drive them. Lastly, I covered some of the events both hosted by VANK and co-hosted with other groups.

My second project was managing the Snapshot Korea contest, an online photo contest co-hosted with the Korea Tourism Organization. Anyone from all over the world could submit pictures that reminded them of Korea or Korean culture. It was fascinating to see all the creative entries and the various places they were being submitted from. I was also a team leader for a group of students during the visit to Dokdo and performed as a member of the fan dance team on the school tours trip to Mongolia.

Other minor duties consisted of translating, helping out during events, speaking at off-line events, and offering a foreigner perspective on various projects.

4. Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

To be completely honest, I had some initial apprehension about VANK because of what I read about VANK on their Wikipedia page. VANK had often been accused of nationalism so I was nervous about not being able to agree with or adjust to the organization’s culture. I’m also quite expressive with my opinions so I was wary that this would be a place where I wouldn’t be able to voice my perspectives as a foreigner in Korea. However, I quickly learned that my worries were unfounded. The staff immediately welcomed me like family and was very interested to hear about my opinions. They were kind, funny, and loving. Additionally, the information I had been concerned about from the Wikipedia page was extremely outdated and VANK had grown and developed as an organization. What really changed my mind however, were the actual VANK members. Anyone with a general understanding of the life of a typical Korean student knows how much they bogged are down with pressure for academic success. They participate in little to no extracurriculars and often feel lost about their future. VANK students were starkly different. VANK had taught all of them to aspire for goals and dreams that would positively impact their communities, nation, and the global world. They were instilled with the belief that having a dream was not the same as simply obtaining a career and to have pride in who they were as individuals. As they exchanged culture with fellow students around the world and they gained interest in global issues such as poverty and human rights. Most noticeably, during an exercise during the Dokdo trip where students given a task to think of ways to achieve greater peace in Asia, I was surprised to hear the open-minded, innovative, forward-thinking ideas of young students.

5. What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

The greatest things I’ve gained are my relationships with the people I met. Nearly every single person I met was welcoming, warm, and always incredibly kind to me. They were also so passionate about their desire to make their most of their life and make a difference in the world. I was inspired by the drive I saw in students that were much younger than me and in turn, I was able to reflect on my own personal goals.

I was also able to gain a deeper understanding of Korean culture and history. VANK gave me the opportunity to experience Dokdo, Mongolia, and even Gyeongju, the center of Korean history. Dokdo showed me the significance of the island and why Koreans so valued Dokdo as a symbol of the Korean identity. Mongolia gave me the chance to experience another beautiful culture and create honest relationships despite any language or cultural barriers. Finally, Gyeongju’s rich historical culture took me thousands of years into the past with sights and scenes that I will never be able to forget.

These were only a few of the memorable moments at VANK and I believe I was truly lucky for my experience there. I loved going to work every morning and always remember each day as being full of smiles and laughter.

6. Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

My short-term goal is to graduate hahaha. Since this might be the end of my academic career, I want to feel that I’ve done my best so I can finish without any regrets. My long-term goal is similar in that I just want to continue to give my all in the opportunities that come my way and just be someone who makes positive contributions to my communities.


Jiao (Sarah) Sun – China


Please give a brief introduction of yourself.
I’m a college senior from Nanjing University in China. I am majoring in finance and will be going to graduate school for finance next semester.

How did you start interning at VANK?
I always wanted to intern or travel abroad but I never had the time or opportunity until now. I was genuinely interested in Korean culture so I looked through the internships in Korea that were available through AIESEC. (AIESEC is an international non-profit organization that provides student with leadership training and internship opportunities at for-profit and non-profit organizations).  I was particularly interested in Korea’s relationship with other countries so I was attracted to VANK’s work with international relations. I was also interested in gaining experience at an NGO. I applied to VANK through AIESEC and was selected for the six-week intern program.

What were your duties as an intern?
I’m researched the Nanjing massacre and helped VANK researchers access resources that are only available in Chinese. I’m also worked on promoting VANK to middle and high schools students in China so that they may have opportunities to participate if they are interested. VANK gave me the freedom to research international issues that interest me such as women’s rights.

Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?
Everyone was very kind. I also thought I would be the only intern but I was so happy to meet the other interns! I enjoyed the freedom of researching topics according to my interest.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?
My colleagues taught me a lot about the topics of my interest. I was able to see all of their hard work, their passion, and the resulting efforts. Specifically, I had the opportunity to meet a comfort woman. We also have comfort women in China and the related issue of historical distortion in textbooks. I truly understood how comfort women should receive their just apologies and deserve to have their stories told as soon as possible.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.
I want to do a great job as an intern while experiencing as much Korean culture as possible. In the long run, I would like to continue to do work that promotes Korean culture to China and promotes Chinese culture to Korea.


Kyndra Love – USA

1454286_10151764527242116_1376111047_n (1)Please give a brief introduction of yourself. 

Originally from Oregon, I was first introduced to Korea in high school. I had the opportunity to travel to Korea with my music department and immediately fell in love. During my senior year, I studied Samulnori at Chungnam Arts High School in Cheonan. After returning home to the US, I wanted to continue studying Korean. So, I decided to move to Hawaii! Not only is there a large population of Koreans, the Korean program at University of Hawaii is well-known.

After completing an undergraduate program in Second Language Studies (and a year of language study at Yonsei University), I was accepted into the Korean Language Flagship program. The 2 year program was split into two parts, one year spent in Hawaii and the other at Korea University. While attending classes in Korea, we were encouraged to find internships similar to our thesis topic. My interest was based in Korean food culture and history, but it was very difficult to find an internship related specifically to my topic. So I started to do some research on possible internships and was able to find VANK.

When and how did you find out about VANK? How did you start interning at VANK? What kind of work did you do during your time there? Any problems or difficult aspects?

I actually found out about VANK through a fellow graduate of Flagship. He thought that VANK would be a perfect match for my interests; and as it turned out, it was! For about a year, I had the opportunity to be part of this organization and during that time I was involved in various activities. As a native English speaker, my main task was to assist in the translating and editing of articles, videos, and presentations. I also participated in lectures, and attended meetings and conferences between VANK and other government organizations.

The best part of my job was being around colleagues who were enthusiastic about their work; and it was a relief to intern in such a positive environment. I had previously been warned about companies where employees were treated badly or overworked. Fortunately, my experience at VANK was the complete opposite. I enjoyed coming to the office and participating in events and activities. The only difficulty I had was my intent to speak Korean at all times. As a learner, it is easy for me to become nervous when speaking, especially in front of crowds. However, using Korean at work allowed me to advance my Korean ability in many ways. It was only because of the acceptance and support of my colleagues that I was able to become more comfortable speaking in a work environment, which I am extremely thankful for.

What have you gained from your internship? What were the most rewarding moments?

There are few moments in life when you have the ability to experience something incredible. For me, VANK provided me with not one, but two of these opportunities. The first was visiting Dokdo. The tension between Korea and Japan over the two islands is well known and having the opportunity to step foot on the islands was surreal. Although it sat in the middle of the ocean, the clear blue water and birds perched on the rocks were a beautiful sight. After that experience, with all of its charm and beauty, I began to truly understand the importance of the islands to Koreans.

The second was traveling to Uzbekistan. Never in my life did I think I would be traveling to central Asia. I was impressed and surprised by the deep connection between the Uzbek and Korean people. For a number of centuries Koreans served as an integral part of Uzbek culture in regards to trade and eventually farming. I was able to learn so much about these two cultures and gained a deep respect for the warmth and kindness of both native Uzbek people and the Korean-Uzbek nationals as well.

Through traveling with VANK and attending day to day workshops, I constantly was reminded that every person has the ability to affect change; myself included. I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to not only be better at my studies, but be a better person as well. And for that, I am truly grateful for my experience at VANK.


Bonny Li – Taiwan

bonnyPlease give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Jia-Qin Li(李佳親), from Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C. I’m a sophomore in National Cheng-Chi University and my major is Japanese Literature. My hobbies are reading and writing. I regularly go to the library and bookstore in search of elements for my novels. I’m also interested in photographing the inconspicuous but lovely plants and insects that come into my life. One of my daily routines is logging all my experiences–happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, etc.- in a diary so that I can give my future self a nice big present.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I got the chance to intern at VANK through AIESEC, the largest international student internship NGO. I sent my applications to many countries and only received one reply from South Korea so I went to South Korea for my internship at VANK. It lasted around eight weeks, from 07/16/12- 09/07/12. I spent most of my summer vacation in Korea. It was really amazing for me.

What were your duties as an intern?

Interacting with VANK members –most of them are high school students- to introduce where I’m from and who I am; writing reports about the international relationship between Taiwan, China and South Korea and what I did every week; being as a helper in events VANK held; going to many places like museums to learn more about Korean history and cultures.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

I gained the ability to research more and more information, to practice writing and speaking foreign languages every day, to experience true Korean cultures, and to interact with people from other countries. Since I’m not an extroverted person, I think that there may have been some misunderstandings that happened during my internship with other interns. After coming back to Taiwan, I pushed myself to speak my true thoughts. This is the greatest thing I gained from this internship.

In the VANK office, there were less problems. But outside of VANK, there were more problems especially when talking with clerks. Most of them don’t speak English so I couldn’t understand what they meant or anything else. It was useless to make gestures so I gave up communicating with them. Besides, the price in Korea is more expensive than in Taiwan so I seldom ate out and rather cooked in the dorm. Maybe this is another ability I gained during the internship.

Another experience was going to Dokdo. It is said that even if you are Korean, it’s difficult to set foot on Dokdo because of the territorial dispute between South Korea and Japan that has last for a long time and both countries are still fighting for this island. During the time in Dokdo, I joined the group composed of other VANK members who welcome me very much and I made a lot of friends during the trip. On the last day, my group was rewarded with an amazing and surprising cultural performance. This was the most rewarding moment.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

The short-term goals are to publish my own books about comics and anime and to catch up with academics because I’ll transfer my major next semester. The long-term goals are to become a translator and interpreter because I’ve learned many languages and I want to improve these two abilities. I also want to save money to travel to Europe, Australia, etc. in the future.


Binh Nguyen – Vietnam

1015228_10151770912712275_1043372085_oPlease give a brief introduction of yourself.

Hi! My name is Binh and it means “peaceful” in Vietnamese. I am 23 years old and from Hanoi, Vietnam. I majored in Commerce and am now working in the Financial Services industry. I am personally interested in K-pop and this interest sparked a curiosity about Korea.

How did you start interning at VANK?

I worked at VANK for 8 weeks as full-time summer intern in 2011. I came to know about VANK and its wonderful internship opportunity through the job database maintained by AIESEC, an international student organization that promotes internships in various countries. As a fan of K-pop, I had always been interested in visiting and exploring Korea so I was thrilled at the chance to intern at a friendly Korean NGO that shares stories about Korean culture, history, and heritage with the world.

What were your duties as an intern?

I worked mainly as a reporter and translator. I wrote feedback with an external person’s perspective on VANK’s documentaries, stories, and other materials on Korean topics. Much of my work had to do with contributing to and managing the Friendly Korea Community and World Changer website. Additionally, I wrote several reports on assigned subjects such as “The Influence of Hallyu” and “My Dokdo Camp Experience.” I also worked on translating VANK’s English materials into Vietnamese. During my internship, VANK organized a lot of conferences for young Korean students so I had many chances to participate in and learn about organizing these events.

Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

The internship significantly exceeded my expectations! I came to Seoul anticipating 2 months of serious white-collar work in the office but instead I ended up joining a family.

The VANK office members were like family members to me; the atmosphere was completely welcoming. There was no strict observance of an office hierarchy and all staff had friendly relationships with one another. Gitae would kindly offer to make me coffee sometimes after our lunch together. My research supervisor, Hyunsook would propose research topics that she and other VANK staff members knew I would love to write about (Hallyu!). And Wonjung would often take pictures of me and the other staff. The internship was such a memorable time and I love every second of it.

I could not speak or understand Korean so living in Seoul and working in an office surround by entirely Korean people was definitely difficult, as expected.

But the thing is, I was really lucky because I received tremendous help from everyone in the office. They taught me basic Korean greetings and sayings and helped me whenever I had any questions about life in Seoul. Everyone in the office helped ease my transition to Seoul and made everyday life happier. Sunhee would often walk to the train station with me on our way home after work. Saebom would take me around the city on our search for Korean bubble teak. Saebom, Hyunsook, and Jungae all invited me to visit their homes. When I wanted to try new food and visit a new area, Bokyung took me to the Ewha Women’s University. There are so many countless things I was helped with and I am still feel so very grateful.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

I met many Koreans who helped me widen my knowledge about the traditions, culture, food, and history of the beautiful country Korea and the exciting city Seoul. I also learned about the various issues and conflicts as well as dreams and hopes of the people in Korea. Simultaneously, I developed my ability to work with foreigners in an entirely unfamiliar and foreign environment. I also learned to spend time with and understand Korean and foreign friends of all different ages and backgrounds. It was truly an eye-opening experience because I got to learn a lot both from the nature of my work and from the relationship I shared with the friends I made in Korea.

The highlight of my internship was participating in the Dokdo leadership camp. Not only did I learn a lot of about the Dokdo conflict, I was also able to interact with many young Korean students and understand their dreams and wishes for a brighter and more peaceful future. I witness the successful efforts of VANK in organizing such a wonderful platform for the Korean youth (who came from all over the country) to come together in order to discuss their goals and plans for the future, share their love for their country, and build strong relationships with one another. It feels surreal to relive this wonderful adventure of August 2011.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

My personal short-term goal in the next few years to meet up again with as many of my Korean friends as possible either by re-visiting Korea (which I did in 2012 and hope to do again!) or by welcoming them in my home city of Hanoi, Vietnam. Or perhaps we will meet in another country, who knows where life may take us.

My long-term goal is to always cherish and maintain life-long friendships with the friends I was blessed to have made in Korea, for such relationships mean a lot to me in my life.


Younes El Gasmi – Morocco


Please give me a brief self-introduction of yourself.
My name is Younes EL GASMI and I am 26 years old. I am from Casablanca, Morocco. I have a Bachelors degree in Management and Accounting and now I am doing my Masters in International Finance.

How did you start interning at VANK?                                                                                              I found about VANK through an organization called AIESEC, an international student intern organization.  I started the internship in February of 2011 and the duration was two months.

What were your duties as an intern?
I translated VANK materials (websites and books) into French and Arabic and also gave short speeches about my experience to middle and high school students during VANK events.

Was the internship just as you expected? Why or why not?
No, the internship was not like I expected ….it was more than expected because I felt comfortable working with the whole team. They welcomed me a lot and I am very thankful to them for this. Also, I was very lucky for the opportunity to participate in many events organized by VANK.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?
I have gained meaningful friendships, insight about true Korean mindsets, culture, and history, and meetings with lot of future Korean leaders. Really, it was the best way to discover the real Korea. The most rewarding moments were visiting Dokdo and attending the Kim Jang Hoon concert, but also I will never forget the moments when my friends opened up their hearts and homes to me.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.
My short term goal is graduating with excellence, and my long term goal is to become the president of the World Bank.


Rafael Bonaparte – Germany


Please give a brief introduction of yourself.

My name is Rafael. I am 26 years old and from Germany. I just finished by Bachelor’s degree in business and economics and recently started my Master’s degree.

How did you start interning at VANK? What were your duties as an intern?

I was an intern from August to October 2010. Frankly, I cannot remember the reasons for my decision anymore since it was three years ago. I think one of the main reasons was that no one else i knew was planning to go there…

My duties were to foster a social network to connect Korean students with other students around the world, participate in the Dokdo Island Festival, and present an overview of my experiences at VANK to the festival attendees. Additionally, I started to translate the website of VANK to proper German as the actual translation at the time was incorrect.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

I gained a lot of different experience during this internship. Korean culture was completely new to me and by the end I hope I understood the meaning of most things and culture.

My only difficulties were the lack of cheese (hahah).

The most rewarding moment was when I was given the opportunity to speak in front of approximately 800 people about my experiences with VANK. Also, the trip to the border to North Korea was fascinating.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

My short term goal is it to change my university from Gießen, a small city in Germany, to London, UK. My long term goals are to find a decent job somewhere in the UK, Germany, the Middle East, or Asia. My career goals lie in the financial sector, probably a mixture of financial knowledge and IT.


Polly Chan – Hong Kong


Please give a brief introduction of yourself. How did you start interning at VANK?

My name is Polly from Hong Kong and I am currently working as a personal assistant in a business consulting firm. I worked at VANK as a summer intern in 2010 through the AIESEC exchange program. I decided to participate in AIESEC because It’s amazing and eye-opening! I love learning about new cultures and making new friends. I chose VANK because I wanted to know more about Korean traditional culture and the intern job description sounded perfect for me.

What were your duties as an intern?

During my internship, I participated in writing a column about Korean traditional food, translated the English VANK website and one of their publication to Chinese, and most importantly, I was a part of the leadership camp to Dokdo island!

Was your internship experience as you expected? Why or why not?

The internship was just fascinating and eye- opening. It deepened my understanding of Korean traditional culture and history and I got the chance to visit Dokdo island, a place that not even average Koreans can visit. I enjoyed the job a lot because I was able to help promote the amazing Korean traditional culture to the younger generation in Seoul. The hardest part of my internship was language. If I had had a better knowledge of the Korean language, I surely could have done more, helped more, and made a better impact on VANK. That’s why I decided to study the Korean language when I back to Hong Kong.

What have you gained from your experience as an intern?

I truly treasure all the people I met in Korea and every moment I experienced. It was just unforgettable and life- changing.

Describe some of your short-term and long-term goals.

I hope in the future, there will be chance for me to work with VANK again! It was such a meaningful NGO. I will continue to promote Korean culture to my friends in Hong Kong and definitely will keep in touch with all my lovely friends in Korea. Long term, I would like to balance my career and personal life while making significant steps in my career.

-VANK Story 2013-